Another week, another five cool things.
I spoke a couple of weeks back about the trailer to the new Netflix series GLOW and now it's finally dropped. I’ve only made it one episode in, but so far I’m digging it. They definitely get the look and feel of the early '80s just exactly perfect. Marc Maron is great as the down-on-his-luck producer trying to throw some misfit ladies together and make them wrestle for ratings. I’m not quite as sold on Alison Brie’s performance yet, but I’m rooting for her.
It's not quite figured out its tone just yet. Most of it is set inside the dingy, dilapidated old gym where the ladies practice or Alison Brie’s crap apartment. Those scenes have a scuzzy, realistic feel to them. But then there are these fantasy sequences where Maron is imagining what the show will look like and they have the bright neon light, candy-color sheen of '80s music videos. I like both of those aspects but the show hasn’t quite figured out how to make them work together. But as noted I’m but one episode in, so I expect that will get better.
Doctor Who: "The Armageddon Factor"
In my very first "Five Cool Things and..." article I wrote that I had started the 16th season of Classic Doctor Who. This is the season that ran a long story arc - known as the Key To Time - across the entire season. I finished the last story in that arc this week. I love the idea of a season-long arc, but boy did they drop the ball with this one. So many of the stories felt like the typical "Doctor visits a planet and gets into trouble" plot with the need to find another key thrown in as an afterthought.
This is very true with "The Armageddon Factor". It starts with the Doctor and Romana landing on an alien planet that’s involved in a long, troubled war with another nearby planet. There’s some interesting stuff going on in that plot but a couple of episodes in they seem to realize they need to wrap up the whole Key to Time business and suddenly there is an “evil” planet with someone named “The Shadow” on it (who works for the Black Guardian - the exact opposite of the White Guardian who started this whole seasonal arc at the beginning of the season). It all culminates in one of the most disappointing endings to any Doctor Who story I’ve ever seen.
But wait, this is supposed to be "Five Cool Things" and here I am slagging this story. Truth be told, for me, any Classic Who is good Classic Who. On a true scale, none of them are brilliant TV, but that’s half their charm. The whole of the Key to Time arc was a bit disappointing but I’m glad they tried it. Mary Tamm was quite enjoyable as Romana (next season she gets replaced by Lalla Ward - who in classic Doctor Who fashion actually plays a totally different character). Like so many Classic Who stories it has some great moments, and some really bad ones. But I’m always happy to watch them and that’s cool with me.
My Neighbor Totoro
I was late to the Studio Ghibli scene so I missed most of their big films hitting the silver screen, although I’m not entirely sure they actually showed anywhere near me. Whatever the case, I’ve learned to love most of their films on home video so when Fathom Events announced they would be showing many of the classic Ghibli movies in theaters all summer long, I was super excited. I reviewed My Neighbor Totoro for the site.
John Carpetner’s The Thing
The first time I watched John Carpenter’s The Thing I was disappointed. Part of it was that it had been so hyped as one of the greatest horror films of all time that my expectations could only be let down. It's been a long time since that first viewing so my thoughts on it back then are vague and unfamiliar (I actually wrote a review of it back then but I’ve since lost it) but I do remember not being impressed with the special effects.
Watching it again, I understand why. It's not that the practical effects are bad - in fact the work of Rob Bottin and Stan Winston is some of the best ever put on screen - it's that they are so bizarre, so disturbing, my mind can’t quite grasp them. This is a creature that mutates quickly. There is a dog that opens up like a flower and shoots out spindly tentacles. There is a head with spider-like legs. A man’s chest cavity opens up, grows teeth, and chops another man’s hands off. This is all so bizarre, so grotesque, that upon first viewing I just rejected it outright. Upon further viewings, I love it. It's still hard to mentally process it but I’m not just in awe of the whole thing.
The rest of the movie is good, too. It's such a beautifully constructed paranoid thriller. Plenty of movies have put together a small crew of people who slowly get killed off and nobody knows who the killer is, but Carpenter puts it together so well it's just about perfect.
Death Note Trailer
As I get more and more into comic books, Japanese manga becomes something I become more and more interested in. I’ve read a few manga stories, but even moreso than superhero comics, manga seems to have super-long, super-complicated storylines that are difficult to get in to. But I know there are some interesting manga that I really should read.
One I keep hearing about is Death Note which is about a teenager who discovers a supernatural notebook. Whenever he writes someones name in the book, that person is killed by a death spirit. The boy uses the book to try to rid evil from the world with complicated results.
A new film has been made of the manga for Netflix and the trailer just dropped. It looks pretty cool.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle Trailer
The original Jumanji came out in 1995. It was a light, fun little adventure movie that showed off some "fancy for its time" CGI special effects and had Robin Williams running around being Robin Williams. It didn’t need a sequel or a remake or a reimagining, but this is 2017, and there isn’t a stone left unturned for its nostalgic payoffs.
Whereas the original had children playing a magical boardgame that brought in creatures from some otherworldly jungle, this new one apparently zooms the kids into the jungle where they have adventures. As board games are too old-school for modern audiences, the game is now a Nintendo-style console system, and when the kids enter the jungle they appear as their in-game avatars (played by the likes of Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Karen Gillan, and Kevin Hart).
I was prepared to hate this movie on principle, but the trailer actually looks like a lot of dumb fun.